BRETTON WOODS, N.H.—Pulling up to the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, N.H., my initial thoughts were of the fictional Overlook Hotel from the Stephen King novel, "The Shining." If a staffer would have greeted me by saying, "All work and no play makes Larry a dull boy," I'd have left—quickly.
The imposing resort was conceived by local coal broker Joseph Stickney. Two-hundred-and-fifty workers spent two years building the Spanish Renaissance style hotel, which opened in 1902 and provided the backdrop for the Bretton Woods international monetary conference in 1944.
Never heard of it? You're not alone.
But it was an important moment in financial history, one that saw representatives from 44 countries convene at this remote resort nestled in the White Mountains to solve a problem.
Until World War I, nations valued their currency to a fixed amount of gold, meaning central banks promised to exchange their paper currencies for the precious metal. It worked until World War I, when it became apparent that there wasn't enough gold to back all of the world's paper. This, along with faulty monetary policies that followed, led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Only World War II, followed by the three-week conference held here, steadied the world's financial systems.
The result was the Bretton Woods Agreement, which created the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—two institutions still with us. It also linked all currencies to the dollar, which was linked to gold. Eventually, the gold standard was too tough for even the U.S. In 1971, President Richard Nixon abandoned it.
Yet the gold standard is a concept that's still very much with us, whether talking about the U.S. economy or the products that populate it, making Bretton Woods the perfect venue for Honda to reveal its redesigned 2018 Accord. By any measure, the 10th-generation Accord is the gold standard among midsize sedans.
Need proof? OK. Consider that the Honda Accord outsells 30 brands in the U.S. If it were a brand, it would rank 12th, just ahead of Dodge, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. In fact, it's more popular than every SUV in America except Honda's own CR-V and the Toyota RAV4.
Given that SUVs have contributed to the decline in popularity of midsize cars, automakers are endowing their mass-market four doors with more personality in an effort to retain the faithful, offering up some extreme redesigns, such as the 2018 Toyota Camry, the only car that, for now, outsells the Accord.
Thankfully, the redesigned Accord remains elegantly extroverted and, for 2018, it's lower and wider but shorter, even though it looks longer than the car it replaces. However, the wheelbase has been lengthened, which pays dividends inside. Passenger volume increases by 2.5 cubic feet to 105.7 cubic feet, while cargo space grows nearly 1 cubic foot to 16.7 cubic feet.
Designers also lowered the front seats while adding padding to the side of the center console for when your leg rests against it. This is a small detail, but one worth you'll appreciate if you're taller. Meanwhile, rear legroom is generous, although seat height seems a little low. All seats can be fitted with seat heaters, while front passengers get seat ventilators. One sour note: The front passenger seat lacks a seat bottom tilt, even on top trims, making it somewhat uncomfortable for longer trips.
Drivers face a comfortably thick steering wheel that is nestled in a horizontally themed instrument panel that has an upscale feel. A large infotainment screen with two large knobs caps the center stack. While the system's easy to operate, Apple CarPlay didn't work properly, a problem common to the Honda Civic but not one that I've experienced with other Honda makes. Nevertheless, you can get an Accord with an embedded navigation system with traffic sign recognition, something not available at any price in a 2018 Toyota Camry. Other tech goodies include a new 7-inch thin film transistor instrument cluster, head-up display, USB ports, Android Auto compatibility, wireless device charging, Bluetooth with near field communication, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates.
And while the Camry offers a V-6 engine and the Accord does not, few will miss it.
Lower trim Accords get a new turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission, although a six-speed manual transmission is available in Sport trim. If you need more power—and who doesn't?—then you'd be wise to choose the new turbocharged 2.0-liter four lifted from the 2017 Civic Type R. It produces 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. That's down 23 horsepower from last year's V-6 but up 21 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to a Honda-developed 10-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual on Sport models. Come the new year, Honda will also offer a new Accord Hybrid.
As you'd expect, the 2.0-liter has plenty of power and the 10-speed delivers creamy, unobtrusive shifts. Remarkably, in hard acceleration from a dead stop in Sport mode, the transmission keeps the power flowing by staying at top of rev range with each shift. Engine roar remains impressively muted except in Sport mode, and road noise is unobtrusive.
When paired with the nicely finished interior, the Accord feels above its station.
That feeling is enhanced by the suspension behavior, which remains flat in corners without the trade-off of a punishing ride. In fact, bump absorption is better than you'd expect given the car's athletic abilities. Drive it over train tracks and you'll see; they're almost unnoticeable. Sport mode never renders the ride punishing, while Normal mode never becomes mushy. It's a bravura performance for a mainstream sedan.
The 1.5-liter is down some on power compared to the 2.0-liter but still has more than enough for most buyers. Still, you'll be asking for power more often, and the engine is more vocal in all circumstances. The CVT is very well-behaved and performs like a conventional transmission when shifted manually.
The 1.5-liter engine comes in six ascending trim levels:—LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi and Touring. Two-liter engine buyers get four trims: Sport, EX-L, EX-L Navi and Touring.
Models with 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine go on sale Oct. 18, with 2.0-liter models to follow in November. The Hybrid goes on sale early next year and is still undergoing final tuning.
Just as the 2016 Honda Civic came from behind to become the best car in the compact class, the 2018 Accord has come from behind to rise to the top of the midsize car segment. It's so good, it's gold.